Dua Lipa wins Best Female and Best Album

Brits 2021: Dua Lipa (above) the Weeknd, Elton John and more played at O2 last night.

Is ambition alone the key to success? Dua Lipa is arguably the most talented young female music star alive. And at last night’s Brit Awards, she added another jewel to her crown.

It was a big night for Dua Lipa, and for London. Covid-19 precautions meant that the 02 Arena was filled to just a fifth of its capacity – but the fact that 4,000 people were able to meet up without social distancing or face masks was a cause for major celebration. And nothing thrilled the Brit Awards audience more than seeing the British-Kosovan singer collect two of the night’s main prizes.

There is no denying that the 25-year-old is on a roll. In March she won the Grammy for best pop vocal album with Future Nostalgia, which was also the most successful UK album of 2020, selling over 265,000 copies. The lead single from it, Don’t Start Now, has been streamed almost two billion times. According to the head of her record label, Warner Brothers: “What we’re seeing is the dawning of a new superstar.”

Lipa is also emblematic of London’s cosmopolitan spirit. Her father was studying dentistry and her mother law when political upheaval in Kosovo forced them to flee the country in 1992. In Britain, they had to start all over again, working at multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

Their daughter’s talent was already evident by the age of nine, when she started taking lessons at a theatre school where Amy Winehouse had been a student. Within a few weeks, she had been moved up to a class full of teenagers.

Two years later the family moved back to Pristina. But Lipa felt that she needed to be in “a place where everything was happening”, and at 15 persuaded her parents to return to London on her own, staying with a family friend while she finished school. During that time, she showed extraordinary self-discipline: “Do homework, have a shower, do my poetry – I would have a time scheduled for everything.”

Her approach to her career was equally hard-headed. Offered a contract as a model, she accepted even though the work did not appeal to her: “I was like, ‘OK, this is something that maybe could help me get out there.’” She was right: it led to a singing role in an ad for The X Factor, which brought her to the attention of a producer who had worked with Ed Sheeran.

She continued to work as a waitress as she embarked on a professional music career. When she quit, she did so very politely, assuming that she might eventually have to go back to her old job.

She released her first single in 2015. A couple of months later her second, Be The One, reached number one in three European countries. The following year she made the charts in Britain and the US, and in 2017 New Rules became her first UK number one. By the age of 22, her stardom was indisputable: she received five nominations in the 2018 Brit Awards, and her duet with Calvin Harris, One Kiss, was the year’s biggest-selling UK single.

“I’ve always been persistent, and I’ve always fought for the things that I’ve wanted,” she says. “So as much as this was my passion, I feel like it was also my destiny.”

Is ambition alone the key to success?

Drive to thrive

Some say, yes. There are any number of talented people who go unrecognised because they do not push themselves hard enough. Lipa herself says: “I’m extremely hardworking and driven, and I feel like that’s the reason why I got to where I am.” Equally, there are many people who have got a long way on very little talent, thanks to their ability to elbow their way to the fore.

Others argue that the world is full of ambitious people who have failed to realise their dreams because they do not have enough basic ability. Lipa owes her success in part to her drive, but it would count for nothing if she were not a great singer and gifted songwriter. The fact is that you need both ambition and talent to make your mark in life.

You Decide

  1. Are awards ceremonies a better measure of achievement than downloads?
  2. Are political songs more important than party manifestos?

Activities

  1. In pairs, make a collage portrait of Dua Lipa based on one of her videos.
  2. Divide into teams to research each of the countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia. Make a presentation to the rest of your class.

Some People Say...

“The worth of a man is no greater than his ambitions.”

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 AD), Roman emperor

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that Lipa is a pop star with serious political views – not surprisingly, given her family’s history. She supported Bernie Sanders in the US presidential race and Labour in the British elections, and has spoken up for Palestinians’ rights. “Online people are like, ‘Just shut up and sing. What do you know? Why do you care so much?’ ” she says. “But I think people forget how small our world is. And it’s getting smaller all the time.”
What do we not know?
One main area of debate is around how much of herself Lipa reveals in her songs. According to Sarah Hudson, a songwriter who has worked with her, “She’s slightly mysterious. At the same time, she’s so genuine that you feel close to the music.” Lipa herself says, “I’ve grown to be more private because so much of my life is public, and I probably censor myself more than I used to. I also don’t love the idea of making music for headlines or for controversy.”

Word Watch

Dua
The name means love in Albanian.
02 Arena
Formerly known as the Millennium Dome, it is Britain’s second largest seated indoor music venue after the Manchester Arena.
Grammy
The US music industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. The name derives from the word gramophone.
Warner Brothers
Founded in 1923 as a film studio, it is now one of the biggest multi-media corporations in the US.
Emblematic
Representative or symbolic. An emblem was originally a badge or ornament representing a quality, family or organisation.
Kosovo
A country in the Balkans with a population of just under 2 million. It was formerly part of Yugoslavia.
Pristina
The capital of Kosovo. It was the scene of widespread violence after the outbreak of the Kosovo War in 1999.

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